President Biden on Tuesday tried to pass himself off as a blue-collar champion of the pending $1.2 trillion infrastructure compromise, telling Wisconsin workers that he used to be a bus driver.
Biden, a millionaire who reaped a windfall after leaving office as vice president in 2017, gave the folksy swing-state pitch capped off with Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.”
He also brought up press accounts that he’s “losing it” mentally.
“Back when I was in law school, I drove a school bus during the summers to pick up spending money,” Biden said in his speech at the La Crosse, Wis., Municipal Transit Utility.
“From one bus driver to another, Lori, I want to thank you for all you do to make this city run to help folks get where they need to go.”
Before taking the stage, Biden told workers of his bus-driving days, “We called them Delaware chauffeurs’ licenses, we could drive tractor trailers, as well.”
Biden mentioned his bus-driving gig while touting $7.5 billion for electric buses and $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations as part of the large bipartisan infrastructure deal reached last week with a group of Republican senators.
On Tuesday, he also plugged the bipartisan plan’s $66 billion for passenger and freight rail.
Biden, who has a Wilmington, Del., Amtrak station named in his honor, joked that he felt it would be appropriate to name the entire Northeast Corridor of Amtrak after him.
“When they named the station after me in my city, someone complained that Biden was using his influence. I said, ‘Hell, they should name the whole Northeast Corridor after me,’” he said.
The 78-year-old president also ridiculed press accounts that he’s “losing it,” claiming he was falsely described as being in mental decline for encouraging a “big crowd” to sit down when they didn’t have any seats.
It’s unclear where that happened because Biden discourages crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic and last year allowed only lightly attended outdoor and drive-in car rallies.
“I once said that to a big crowd in the evening — I said, ‘please sit down.’ And there were no seats. They were out in a football field. And the press pointed out, ‘Biden is losing it.’ But I can see you all have seats,” he said.
Biden critics typically accuse him of being in mental decline due to his often unfocused delivery and moments at which he seems to lose his train of thought.
For example, on June 24, Biden said that COVID-19 killed more Americans than all wars of the past century combined — including the US war in Iran, which never happened.
And he embarrassed himself at the G-7 summit, correcting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not introducing “the president of South Africa” — even though Johnson already did so by name.
Former President Donald Trump made the allegation a central argument in last year’s campaign, claiming that his challenger was mentally “shot” and too “sleepy” for office.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal would be Biden’s second major legislative achievement, following a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that Democrats rammed through Congress in March without a single Republican vote using special budget reconciliation rules that bypass the typical 60-vote requirement in the Senate.
But the bipartisan infrastructure deal is imperiled by Biden’s own party, with Democratic demands for an even larger single-party budget reconciliation bill that hikes taxes and includes social spending.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she won’t pass the bipartisan bill unless the Senate approves a reconciliation bill too — but centrist Democrats in the Senate are balking at a $6 trillion blueprint drafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (i-Vt.).
“There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have the reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” Pelosi said last week.
Biden shocked Republican senators Thursday by saying he won’t sign the bipartisan deal unless the single-party bill also passes. He later backtracked and said he wasn’t threatening a veto.